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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                   223
some frightful disaster awaited him, but his feet had
frozen into the snow and he lacked the strength to tear
them away. He groaned, twisted and tossed—and he
was no longer in the forest, but in the airfield. Yura, the
lanky mechanic, was in the cockpit of a strange, soft and
wingless aircraft. He waved his hand, laughed and shot
up in the air. Grandpa Mikhail took Alexei into his
arms as if he were an infant, and said soothingly: "Nev-
er mind! We'll have a nice steam bath. That will be
fine, won't it?" But instead of putting him in a warm
bath, Grandpa laid him in the cold snow. Alexei tried
to get up but the snow held him fast. No, it was not the
snow; the hot body of a bear was lying on top of him,
snorting, crushing and suffocating him. Busloads of air-
men passed by, looking cheerfully out of the windows,
but they did not see him. Alexei wanted to call to them
for assistance, to run towards them, at least to signal to
them with his hand, but he could not. He opened his
mouth, but only a hoarse whisper came from it. He was
beginning to choke, he felt his heart stop beating, he
made one last effort and for some reason the laughing
face and impudent, inquisitive eyes of Zinochka flashed
before him amidst a mass of flaming hair.
Alexei awoke with a feeling of unaccountable alarm.
Silence reigned. The major was asleep, snoring softly, A
phantomlike moonbeam crossed the room and struck the
floor. Why had those terrible days returned to him? He
had almost stopped thinking about them, but when he
did they seemed unreal. Together with the cool and fra-
grant night air, a soft, sleepy, rhythmic sound poured
through the wide-open, moonlit window, now rising in
an agitated tremor, now subsiding in the distance, and
now halting at a high note as if checked by alarm. It
was the sound of the wood.
The airman sat up in bed and listened for a long time
to the mysterious rustling of the pines. He vigorously
shook his head as if driving away an enchantment and
again became filled with stubborn, cheerful energy. His
stay at the sanatorium was to last twenty-eight days,
which would decide whether he would fly, fight, live, or
whether he would for ever meet sympathetic glances and
be offered a seat in the street-car. Therefore, every minute